The first time I saw the Audi TT, I can remember saying to myself, “wow – what a great looking car – I can’t wait to grow up and buy one.” I was 21 when Audi first introduced the original TT in 1995; now, 20 years later and in it’s third generation, it’s still a great looking car. Technology doesn’t stand still, however, and so the latest TT is more refined and technologically advanced both inside and out. Question is, has two decades been generous to the TT or just put it firmly into middle-age.
Out of the gate, first-impressions are good. In fact, I challenge you to find a world-class 2+2 seater equipped with Quattro four-wheel drive system and dashboard niceties like the standard-fit Audi Virtual Cockpit for under $43,000.
I’ve drunk the Quattro Kool-Aid and, with my time behind the wheel of the 2017 Audi R8 (2017 Audi R8 first-drive in Portugal), still fresh on my mind, I feel like it’s okay for me to tell you that if you want the R8 but can’t afford it -which so many of us cannot – the 2016 TT goes a long way to scratching that itch, and in a way that’s usable every day.
Stateside, the only engine option is a 2.0-liter four cylinder that’s specifically configured for the 2016 TT, good for 220 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Even at just half the horsepower of it’s bigger R8 sibling, the TT never felt underpowered. Cross shoppers will be happy – though their buying decision perhaps made no easier – knowing that the base TT is on par with the the base Cayman, coming in at 5.3 seconds from 0 to 60 mph for the Coupe while the Roadster is 0.3 seconds slower at 5.6.
I’ve actually spent prolonged time with the car on two occasions now, both in the US and, earlier on, in Marbella, Spain. The TTS wasn’t available to test in the US, but happily was included at the international press launch. If you’re seeking the increase of power, among other things, that separates TTS from TT – while bringing it closer to the league of the R8 – then it’s a great bridging model.
2015 Audi TTS (European Version) in Marbella, Spain
Audi gives it an additional 72 hp and bumps the torque up to 280 lb-ft, adding up to a 0-60 time of 4.6 seconds; by means of comparison, the R8 will do the same run in 4.4 seconds. I could’ve used its magnetic ride suspension along the backroads of Oregon, though while it’s standard on the TTS, it’s not an option for the TT.
Larger front and rear rotors are another differentiator between the two cars, though the difference is less pronounced. The 12.3-inch ventilated discs on the front, and 11.8-inch solid discs on the back at certainly capable of bringing the TT to a confident stop. In short, it you plan on spending a lot of time at the track – or just driving hard, period – consider the TTS; for everyone else, the TT is more than enough to keep us moving.
I don’t want this to turn into an R8 vs TT comparison, though it’s not hard to be impressed by some of the features found on the more expensive car that Audi has managed to bring to the TT. Performance and handling are both excellent, and carving through the curvy backroads of Newberg, Oregan the TT felt sharp as a razor. Even on an unfamiliar route – as you’ll see in the video, there were times where the lane markers were nowhere to be seen under the dark canopy of trees) – I felt confident enough to push the car the way it was meant to be driven.
Key to that safe yet still exciting experience is Audi’s all-wheel drive system, among the auto industry’s best. Despite my efforts, I barely got the rear end to kick out. Getting the tires to slip or squeal simply isn’t in the TT’s nature.
For instance, speeding in toward a hair-pin turn all it takes is a gentle tap on the brakes and the TT’s Quattro system – combined with the car’s low center of gravity – to keep it firmly planted during the turn. Foot heavy on the throttle at the right moment and you’re pushing out effortlessly, ready for the next corner.
It’s exciting but it’s also reassuring, and I found myself pushing the TT further than I might’ve felt confident to do in other cars, knowing that even if I delay lifting off the gas, the Audi will still whip me around like a well tossed boomerang. Under the metal, the Quattro system is capable of pushing 100-percent of the power to the front or rear as needed, figuring out how much torque each wheel should get in the process.
You interact with that process using Audi Drive Select, switching between Comfort, Sport, Dynamic, and Individual Settings to adjust steering input, suspension stiffness, shift points, and engine note. Dynamic mode, for instance, holds the revs longer and shifts much later, proved to be my favorite mode for zipping around the back roads as well as on the highway. Comfort mode, meanwhile, delivers better fuel economy while the steering gets easier.
I’m not the only one to think the TT has grown up some in its third generation. Speaking to product manager Anthony Garbis, he made it clear that the previous models were “sporty cars” but Audi sees the new one as a “true sports car”. Performance? Check. Prrecise handling? Check. Distinct overall design inside and out? Well, let’s take a look.
I asked Dany Garand, head of exterior design, to walk me through the car; you’ll notice that Dany points out numerous similarities between the TT, R8, and even the Le Mans R18.
The interior is refined and, though fairly minimalistic, gets all the technology you’d hope for. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit system is great, and I’m pleased to hear it will be standard equipment for all future Audi vehicles. Check out SlashGear’s extensive coverage Audi Virtual Cockpit Extensive Coverage and Audi Virtual Cockpit Extensive Coverage.
Climb in, and the first thing you’re faced with is a12.3-inch display with high-resolution 3D graphics, right behind the steering wheel. The majority of the controls fall under your fingertips on the wheel, with buttons and a scroll wheel, while in the center console there’s a touch pad that allows you to scribble in text.
Audi Virtual Cockpit Hands-on Driving Experience
The display can be switched between a speedometer and tach, though it’s worth noting that you don’t get a second screen in the middle. Effectively the passenger is along for the ride, though they at least have access to the ingenious turbine-inspired HVA controls built into the air vents.
Audi TT/TTS Climate Control Hands-on
All the same, during my time as a passenger I found I could fairly easily see what was going along on the display, as its viewing angles are broad. In fact, more noticeable by its absence is a second cup holder, though you do at least get cubbies for things like your phone, and there’s a USB charging port.
Practicality may not be as sexy as road-handling or horsepower, but it’s something most of us still have to consider. Admittedly by co-driver looks squished in the back seat, but I suspect that kids up to the age of 10-12 should fit comfortably in the rear. It’s not clear at this stage whether car seats and boosters would be so welcome.
The TT may have grown up in the past twenty years, but then again so have I. When I’m home, I’m home: that means taking my 2 1/2 and 5 year old daughters to school, dance class, swimming, and any number of other activities. It’s not enough for the TT to satisfy me, it has to at least nod toward practicality.
That carries over to value, too. Pricing for the new TT starts out at $42,900. The Technology Package – with things like advanced navigation, parking assist, a rear-view camera, and an integrated modem – adds $3,250, while a Bang & Olufsen audio system is another $950.
Meanwhile, there’s the $1,650 Audi Design Selection with S Sport seats along with more leather. Tick the big boxes and you head toward $49,000 in fact. Still, Porsche’s entry-level Cayman starts out at a $3,000 premium over the Audi, which is notable.
As for the TTS, it kicks off at $51,900 which, given the relatively narrow gap between its performance and that of the $115,900 R8, seems like something of bargain to me.
All the same, having had more than a taste of the TT and, on the track, the TTS, I’ve been counting down the time until they arrive on US forecourts. The original TT was enough to wow my younger self with its design; this third-generation car gives it the driving abilities to match.
2016 Audi TT Roadster
Additional Audi TT Image Gallery
Favorite feature: Sportscar Inspired Capless Fuel Filler
• Auto climate control
• Auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass
• MMI touch
• Audi music interface with two USB ports and a 3.5mm aux in
• Audi drive select
• Audi advanced key
• Heated, 12-way power front sport seats (S sport seats with pneumatic side bolsters standard on TTS)
• Leather/Alcantara® interior
• LED interior lighting
• 3-spoke flat bottom multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles
• 18” wheels on TT coupe and TT roadster
• 19” wheels on TTS
• Rear acoustic parking sensors
• LED taillights with dynamic turn signals
• LED headlights
• Spare tire and tool kit/car jack
• 19” wheels with summer tires (Standard TTS)
• 18” wheels with all-season tires (TT coupe and roadster only)
• S sport seats with Fine Nappa leather and Diamond Stitching (includes neck level heating on roadster)
• Red brake calipers (TTS only)
• Bang & Olufsen Surround Sound with a 680 watt amplifier powering 12 speakers
Optional Bang & Olfusen sound system ($950)
S sport seat option ($1,000)
Technology Package ($3,250)
• Audi MMI navigation plus
• Auto-dimming / power-folding exterior mirrors, heated
• Audi connect® with online services
• Parking system plus (front / rear acoustic sensors)
• Rearview camera
• Audi side assist
TT Coupe 2.0 TFSI : $42,900
TT Roadster 2.0 TFSI : $46,400
TTS Coupe 2.0 TFSI : $51,900